Twelve Kingdoms Vol. #10 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Twelve Kingdoms

Twelve Kingdoms Vol. #10

By Chris Beveridge     March 17, 2005
Release Date: March 22, 2005

Twelve Kingdoms Vol. #10
© Media Blasters

What They Say
The time for deliberation is over - the time of war is at hand. Youko and the rebels take Shoko's fortress and declare war against the corruption in the Kingdom Kei's government. On the eve of battle, she talks with two other girls her age, Suzu and Shokei, whose experiences within the Twelve Kingdoms have shaped the events that are ready to unfold. But like all wars, this one will cost Youko in human lives. Will she be prepared to pay the price?

The Review!
Reflecting on what has passed, Shouryuu dredges up an old story to help Youko understand more of what her new found position truly means.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a very good stereo mix that lets the varying amounts of directionality flow nicely across the forward soundstage. Dialogue is clear and distortion free and we had no issues with dropouts. We listened briefly to the English track and had no issues during the areas we checked there.

Originally starting its broadcast run in early 2002, Twelve Kingdoms has a very good-looking transfer here with very fresh materials. The main areas where things don't look as good as one would hope is the opening sequence where there's a bit of cross coloration pixilation going on. Once in the show proper, colors are excellent, with the vibrant areas such as the green eyes or the color of skin coming across in great layers. A lot of the backgrounds and look of the worlds is done in somewhat drab colors, going for the realism look (especially when you have everyone without colored hair). Aliasing is very minimal with only a few areas showing some during panning sequences.

Using the same style as previous volumes, the artwork for this continues to look amazing. Both Enki and Kouya get the cover this time along with Rokuta perched beside him. The illustration is just like the others in how detailed it is which combined with the borders and overall style is what's made this series one of the best looking out there. The series logo is nicely done along the bottom with the subtitle of the opening arc storyline. The top of the border gets the volume/chapter listing. The character art inside is just fantastic. The back cover provides two stripes of shots from the show blended together really well, giving a nice feel to the flow of things. The summary is pretty brief and gives the basic premise of things. The discs special features are clearly listed and simply amusing since it's just scene access and interactive menus. I really wish people would stop calling them special features. The insert takes the shots from the back cover and lines the chapter marks between them while the reverse side is just boxart advertisements.

The menu layout is nicely done here with the front cover background used here as the background but swaying like water, since the static image over it is the non-text version of the world map while some of the nice instrumental music plays along. Movement is decent across the menu as each of the sections provides a selection, all of them invisible until you move over it. Access times are nice and fast and submenus load quickly. Unfortunately the players' language presets were ignored by the disc.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While it's always sad to see some series come to an end, very few will generate the kind of feelings that you'll get at the end of Twelve Kingdoms, since as of this writing there aren't any plans for more of the animation to be made from the novels. This series has woven one of the richest tapestries of a freshly realized world in an anime series that I think I've ever seen and even with the forty-five episodes that we have, they've barely scratched the surface of this highly fascinating and intriguing world.

These last episodes bring us one more tale as told by the King of En from his early days five hundred years prior and how Youko can use the lessons from it to deal with her own situation with Shoukou. Reflecting at the site of a grave where an enemy of sorts of his has long since resided, Shouryuu takes us back to when he had been king for barely twenty years in the land of En. It's an interesting time for him as his ministers and confidents still don't trust him, mostly because he's in the same kind of situation as Youko in that he's trying to understand the land and the world. He does much the same thing in going to ground every once in awhile and mixing with the common folk which upsets his ministers to no end, especially when he ends up sweeping up in a brothel in order to pay for the nights services. But it is at this level that he gets some of the best gossip of his kingdom and understands some of the currents, as much as you can trust gossip at least.

With it being only twenty years since the previous King had been dispatched, his having been a bad tenure that went very much downhill as he ravaged the lands and its people, things are only now starting to settle. Most of the provinces are going through revitalization periods and starting to flourish quite well, the dark grays of the lands are shifting to greens and the people are placing their faith in their King, which in turn places his faith in the people and that helps heal the lands. The only area that is a problem is the province of Gen. During the dark period before Shouryuu, the provincial governor there had found himself being quite the lackey to the previous king and did all that was required, overcollecting in taxes, executing "traitors" and other dark deeds as it was the only way for him to survive.

But before those days came to an end, he was cast aside by his son Atsuyu who was much loved by the people and supported his attempts to take power and protect the province. While all the other provinces around them fell to ruin, Gen flourished and grew prosperous. The expectation was that once Shouryuu came to power, Gen would prosper even more but in the end it was surpassed by the others. The people of Gen came to love Atsuyu even more and began to distrust the King of En and slowly the province gains in its power and its rumors and before anyone really knew it, the province has the same size army as the Royal Army. Since citizens cannot simply claim a position like a provincial governor and it must be assigned by the King, the political arena starts to heat up as Shouryuu starts to exert his power and influence in controlling a situation where a huge rebellion could sweep the entire country.

To make matters worse for him, he ends up losing his Taiho, Enki, to the Gen province when he's captured by one of their commanders. This is actually one of the main arcs of the story as we're introduced at first to a young boy who is an orphan from the wars that brought the last king down but has been raised by a Youma. Enki came across him at one point and ended up being the only friend he made at that point. The boy even took on the name Enki gave him, calling him Kouya, as well as naming his Youma friend Rokuta so that he'd never forget Enki. Kouya's life takes a different turn though when he comes across Atsuyu and his compassion brings the boy to his side, turning him into one of his most able commanders and eventually someone who is able to get close to the King by knowing Enki.

The four episodes that tell this tale are fascinating to watch as it shows the play of power that we had seen in the previous arc but in a different manner. There are plenty of similarities and differences, particularly in the way Shouryuu does things in general, and both are very interesting. The same reasons that every other arc in this series has been engaging to watch is just as true here as there are so many nuances to what's going on that it simply envelopes you as the story gets told. Even when Youko is nothing more than a bookend to each episode while Shouryuu tells his tale, you can see how it's something that will affect how her story is told as it goes forward. It's filled with political intrigue, action, deception and a range of elements that when done in the four episodes that lead up to the recap and summary simply put so many other series to shame. So much happens here that it's almost surprising if we hadn't had the forty episodes prior to it doing the same thing.

In Summary:
Twelve Kingdoms is quite possibly one of the best anime series I think I'll ever see, incomplete as it is. Very few shows have achieved this kind of level of complexity in story and characters. Having forty-five episodes of this show now and without any passage between volumes, this is the kind of series that taking in a marathon session will end up bringing so much more to light and connecting the dots even more. Twelve Kingdoms is one of those series that will be held up for years to come as the real standard by which new shows should be made and will continually show why so many fail and become nothing more than temporary hits and soon forgotten.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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jnager 3/13/2012 12:45:54 PM

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